The Big Dig Gets No Love

1205502496It will be interesting to see how history will view the Big Dig project. Currently, the city’s attitude ranges from anger that the damn thing cost so much to shoulder-shrugging indifference because we’re stuck with it.

But other cities aren’t willing to experiment with underground highways, largely because of what happened here.

Instead, some cities are getting rid of expressways entirely.

Seattle, like a growing number of cities around the country, is looking at taking down its elevated highway structure and replacing it with – nothing. The idea is to slow traffic in the city on ground-level streets, reclaim the waterfront, and let drivers who want to bypass downtown use another route.

That sounds. . . terrible. Maybe pedestrians and drivers are more courteous out West, but can you imagine if all the drivers who currently take the Expressway out of Boston tried to drive down local roads? Pedestrians would get fed up with the endless lines of cars, step in front of them, and gridlock would ensue. As has been well-documented here, the relationship between vehicles and pedestrians in our city is pretty tenuous.

But maybe that’s just our Expressway-era bias showing.

The tear-downs tend to be more popular among professional planners, environmentalists, and their acolytes than residents. People who grew up in the era of freeways can find it hard to believe that tearing them down will result in anything but gridlock.

Given a choice, we’ll take our boondoggle of an underground tunnel over completely congested surface roads any day.